Movies | March 29, 2021 11:08 am

Caitlin Stasey Is Blurring the Lines Between Hollywood and Adult Films

The up-and-coming TV actress has also kicked off a second career as a progressive porn director

A portrait of actress Caitlin Stasey
"I envy people with mystique," as Caitlin Stasey told us. "I'm not one of them."
David-Simon Dayan / Photo illustration by Gabe Serrano

My interview with Caitlin Stasey does not start well. Or on time. 

“I’m so sorry — I had to have one of my dogs put down this weekend,” she says, 15 minutes after our Zoom was supposed to start. “It’s very sad and surreal.” 

She’s obviously upset. But she soon smiles and throws out, “He’ll feel really bad when I tell him that’s why I’m late.’”

So, terrible circumstances aside, Caitlin Stasey is also really funny, and charmingly uninhibited. She’s also a bit of a new discovery for most people. The Australian-born actress is probably best known to mainstream audiences for her work in the twentysomething comedy Please Like Me (binge on Hulu immediately if you haven’t watched it) or cult shows like Reign, A.P.B. and Neighbors. Earlier this year, she starred in the Ed Burns series Bridge and Tunnel

But Stasey isn’t a conventional Hollywood type. Outside of the mainstream, she helped launch Herself.com, a site that features intimate interviews with women accompanied by a professional nude portrait. And in the past year, she directed a series of short films (U Up?, Lip Service) for the sex-positive site afterglow, which emphasizes adult works that are created ethically and “with an emphasis on the female gaze.” But, still, it’s porn, a word she’s happy to use.

Given that it’s rare to find an actor working in both Hollywood and in pornography, we wanted to get Stasey’s thoughts on navigating two different (but apparently not so different) worlds. Even during a sad, surreal time.

InsideHook: How’s your last year been, outside of the dog?

I’ve actually been sititng from a pretty comfortable seat watching the world go down. I’ve been in L.A. — the U.S. is fucked but L.A. is an OK place to be for this. A lot of crazy shit happened in 2020! I directed my first porn, I did a TV show. I’ve also been writing a lot. My girlfriend and I … we’ve been wary about talking about how nice things have been, comparatively. All things considered, I’ve been OK.

Speaking of your first porn — did you think something was missing from the space?

You know with porn, if you wanna see it, you can find it. It was less about filling a gap — so to speak — and more to do with that I wanted the opportunity to make something beautiful, have fun doing it and make it with a really thoughtful, progressive, diverse team. I just like things looking beautiful. I’m aesthetically driven! Porn is a great way to exercise that muscle; it’s visual storytelling, like music videos. Plot is great, but it’s not the most important thing that you’re trying to tell. And you only have a brief window to showcase different things, so that’s challenging and fun. 

two films from Caitlin Stasey for Afterglow
Ads for the first two films by Caitlin Stasey for afterglow
Afterglow

So, plot is minimal here.

One of my films is centered around COVID and long-distance relationships and how it’s been isolating and frustrating. And one about a guy going down on his girlfriend. Pretty A to B! But I’m hopefully moving on to more complex ideas. I would love to weave in different elements, like horror or fantasy. I’d love to do something like Valerie and Her Week of Wonders, some batshit crazy ‘70s movie that was like Holy Mountain but about sex. Plot did not matter in those films.

Going from mainstream projects like an Ed Burns TV series or a comedy like Please Like Me — have you received any backlash?

Some people want to spin this so it’s more titilating. There are horrible publications like The Daily Mail, which I swear is written by algorithms, that make it sound like I’m in the porn I’m shooting. When they do that, they’re trying to capitalize on people’s misguided and judgmental views on this industry. It’s frustrating. They’re appealing to people’s meanest curiosities as opposed to their purest ones. 

But I also don’t give a shit! Naked pictures of me exist on the internet, and I’ve done so many sex scenes throughout my career. Some of them fun, some sexy, some for people I admire, and other times, the exact opposite. It’s interesting, I think I’ve been in far less consensual situations on mainstream films than on porn sets. 

It’s funny, It’s only recently I’ve felt comfortable enough admitting that I love acting. It doesn’t feel like a cool thing to love — drama kids have been historically bullied, and rightfully so, because we’re very annoying! But I’ve been doing stuff like this for a long time, and if Chloe Sevigny can suck her boyfriend’s dick in a movie, it’s cool, it was hot, and she’s still a movie star.  

The cast of Please Like Me in 2015
Caitlin Stesey (third from left) and the cast of “Please Like Me” in 2015
Harmony Gerber/WireImage

Has mainstream Hollywood been receptive?

No backlash, though I think you’re in trouble now if denigrate any person or profession publicly — which is amazing, but sometimes not amazing. Actually, I think the backlash has been quieter. [Whispers] Do we really want to hire this girl? Her pussy’s on the internet. 

Some people will be like, that’s fucking cool. Other people, she’s lost the mystique. I envy those people with mystique. I’m not one of them! 

You’ve worked with intimacy coordinators in both Hollywood and porn films. What’s the difference?

It’s kind of the same, actually. There’s a lot of different people vying for your safety and comfort. With porn, you just take it one step further. We have a yes and no list we carry, the list is quite funny: no anal, no gagging on blah blah blah, no ejaculate on face. It’s a contract for nudity for film — half a butt cheek, no nipple, etc. — just different words. 

Mainstream film sex, I get why misconduct happens. It’s a weird work environment. I know what that environment breeds. I imagine porn throughout history was like that. Fortunately, I came in during the height of transparency and decency.

You’re pretty funny on Instagram. You posted recently “You never wanna be the hottest person at an orgy.”

I’m a funny girl! But thank you. There are different levels of orgies, and I’ve talked to people about it and incorporated that into my work. But seriously, you never want to be the most famous, or the smartest person in a situation. If you’re at the apex of what’s happening, there’s no reason for you to be there. Big fish, little pond stuff.  

Do you like social media?

It can be a suck of time and attention. I can be evil, but also helpful. Sometimes it’s an echo chamber. I have my beliefs — equality for all, kindness, compassion, etc. I’m radical in some senses, but there is nuance. But social media requires you to be very vocal about issues. I don’t always want to post for the sake of reposting. Who cares what I think? I’m a white person and an actor. I have a hard time wondering if what I’m doing is activism or virtual signaling, and I don’t want to do the latter, it’s distressing. 

As for your Hollywood side, you just did an Ed Burns TV show for Epix.

Bridge and Tunnel. It’s a fucking cool and sweet show about kids in the 80s. It looks beautiful, it’s funny, it’s all about finding purpose, love and growing up. And we shot it in five weeks during Covid. 

For an Australian, you can pull off an American accent pretty easily. 

I think it’s because I don’t really sound like I’m from there. There was an actress who said it was easy to add on but hard to strip away. We have a pretty flat accent. [At this point your writer makes Stasey recount her favorite Aussie slang, which includes “drongo,” “flat out like a lizard drinking” and “dry as a dead dog’s dick.”]

COVID’s still making things difficult. What’s next in 2021?

Do some more porn. I’m also writing a feature, and maybe doing a music video later this month. And a lot of waiting.